Learning to learn: the key to success

While studying Environmental Engineering at Monash, Kunyao “Hillary” Wu picked up a few essential transferable skills along the way. She developed her ability to communicate effectively, how to work harmoniously as a team, but most importantly, she learned how to learn, and to do so quickly.

To stay competitive in an evolving industry, Hillary is ready to adapt. “Technology has been rapidly changing in the 21st century so that, in the long term, only a small portion of the technical skills learned at university will remain relevant,” she asserts. “But tackling new tasks every day at uni prepared me well for the workplace, where you need to acquire new knowledge and skills on the fly.”

Now Assistant Project Manager and Advisor at iBuild Building Solutions, a company dedicated to smart, cost-effective housing, Hillary puts her fast learning into practice. If one week she’s assigned a project involving construction, sustainable solutions and IT, the next week she has no trouble switching to a project involving marketing, advertising and event management.

“University is much more than taking exams and completing assignments,” insists Hillary. “Don’t just sit in the lab and study.” Through various extracurricular activities, she herself gained a huge amount of knowledge not possible through book learning. In this way, she also discovered her own potential.

For example, as part of the Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI), Hillary helped supply clean drinking water to a fishing village in the Philippines, improving living conditions and ultimately saving lives. She remarks, “This experience broadened my outlook, and sparked some life-changing friendships.”

Hillary also travelled to Turkey, as an AISEC volunteer, to deliver workshops to teenagers on presentation skills. “This was a chance to give back some of my own good fortune to others in need of help,” she explains. “But I also learnt a great deal from those I taught.”

To hone her leadership skills, Hillary served as President of the Female Engineers at Monash (FEM), where she coordinated events, chaired meetings and liaised with industry partners. “I’d hoped to become the perfect leader of a big society,” she confides. “Instead, I learnt from my mistakes and became a better person.”

As a Monash Professional Year intern, Hillary built a solid foundation for her career. “This program gave me a lot of personal training in spoken and written communication,” she says. “And, among other things, it taught me how to get along well with team members with different work styles.” This internship, she contends, led to her landing a job at iBuild.

What’s on the horizon for Hillary? “In ten years, I’d like to be an entrepreneur running a company that creates job opportunities for at least 1000 people,” she responds. Well, if she continues on her current path, it’s hard to imagine she won’t indeed fulfil that ambition.